Ahmedabad, Oct 5 Five years since challenging the clean chit to former Chief Minister Narendra Modi and a battery of senior police officials and bureaucrats in the 2002 Gujarat riots, Zakia Jafri, widow of slain Congress leader Ehsan Jafri, lost yet another legal battle here on Thursday.
A single judge bench of Justice Sonia Gokani of the Gujarat High Court rejected her plea challenging a lower court order upholding a clean chit to Modi and others in the riots cases. The septuagenarian Zakia Jafri had called the riots a state-sponsored violence on the Muslims that left 1,100 people killed and alleged a larger conspiracy.
The hearing of the petition before Justice Gokani had concluded on July 3 this year.
The High Court, however, allowed Jafri to approach higher forums for further investigation in the case.
Jafri and activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO Citizen for Justice and Peace had filed a criminal review petition against a magistrate’s order upholding the clean chit given by a Supreme Court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) to Modi and as many as 59 others on the allegations of a “larger criminal conspiracy” behind the riots.
The petition also sought the High Court’s direction for fresh investigation into the matter.
Ehsan Jafri, a former Congress MP, was among 68 people who were killed at the Gulberg Society in Gujarat when a large mob attacked it on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning incident which set off riots in the state.
The SIT submitted before the High Court that its investigation was conducted under the Supreme Court’s watchful eye, and its report was largely accepted by all. The lower court went over all the aspects of allegations in detail to conclude that it was no longer necessary to look into the “larger conspiracy” angle, the SIT argued.
Jafri’s lawyer Mihir Desai forcefully argued in the High Court that the magistrate accepted the SIT’s closure report, but did not even consider other options such as rejecting it or ordering a fresh probe.
Desai asserted that the lower court ignored the Supreme Court guidelines and did not consider signed statements of witnesses which suggested that there was a conspiracy, he argued.
Desai submitted that the magistrate also ignored submissions of key witnesses like former IPS officers Sanjiv Bhatt, R.B. Sreekumar and Rahul Sharma, besides the findings of Tehelka magazine’s sting operation. He alleged that the riots could have been prevented if certain ministers, police officers and bureaucrats had not abetted the violence.
The SIT’s closure report, filed on February 8, 2012, gave a clean chit to Modi and others. In December 2013, the metropolitan magistrate’s court here rejected Zakia Jafri’s petition against the report, after which she moved the High Court in 2014.